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BY KEITH EPPS
A pastor who molested one of his teenage parishioners more than 20 years ago was ordered yesterday to serve five years in prison.
The Rev. George O. Lowe, 71, the former pastor at Mount Hope Baptist Church in Stafford, was sentenced in Stafford Circuit Court to 10 years with half of it suspended.
Lowe was the pastor at Mount Hope for 43 years until he was indicted earlier this year. He previously pleaded guilty to two counts of taking indecent liberties with a child.
Because the crimes occurred before Virginia abolished parole, Lowe will likely serve no more than half of the five active years before he is released, sources said.
Still, Judge Gordon Wil-lis' sentence was far harsh-er than what was recommended in the state sentencing guidelines, which called for no incarceration. Lowe has already served more than 90 days.
Benjamin Marsh, the victim in the case, outlined the case against Lowe from the witness stand yesterday. Marsh, who is now 40, has said he wanted to have his name used.
Marsh said the molestation began in March of 1984 and went on for a couple of years. He said it took place on church property about 20 times.
Marsh said he was regularly summoned to the church under the guise of receiving counseling.
In the first incident, Marsh said, Lowe persuaded him to masturbate because it was "medically good for me."
Later acts involved Lowe performing sex acts on the victim, Marsh said.
Marsh said he was appalled from the outset but was scared to tell anyone because Lowe convinced him he'd be sent away if he did.
"I just kept hoping it wouldn't happen again," Marsh testified.
Marsh said the molestation continued to haunt him long after he stopped seeing Lowe. He said it negatively affected all aspects of his life, including his marriage and military service.
Marsh said he turned to drugs and alcohol for relief and tried to commit suicide.
"I'm still trying to figure out how to get past it," Marsh said yesterday in response to a question.
Marsh reported the molestation to church officials and the sheriff's office in 1988, he said.
He said the head deacon and Lowe quoted Scriptures about Christians not taking each other to court. Police talked to Lowe, but didn't have enough evidence to make a case.
That changed in 2007, when Stafford Detective Don Lenhart got Marsh to wear a wire while talking to Lowe about the past incidents.
Lenhart then took the taped comments to Lowe and got a confession.
Lowe yesterday said he is sorry for his actions and has been forgiven by Jesus.
"I did do wrong but I can still be of value to this community," Lowe said to the judge and a courtroom full of supporters.
Prosecutor Eric Olsen acknowledged that Lowe had no prior criminal record and had done a lot of good in his community. But he said his actions with Marsh "tainted" those good works.
Defense attorney George Marzloff said Lowe deserved to be released from jail. He said Lowe has long been a model citizen and has already suffered enough.
Willis disagreed, saying that Lowe's "terrible crimes" robbed Marsh of his childhood.
Keith Epps: 540/374-5404